There has never been a more worrying time within the substance misuse sector. Deaths from drug misuse in England are at the highest level since records began, whilst deaths relating to alcohol consumption are 10% higher than a decade ago. Services are facing a further £34million in reduced funding (on top of wider cuts to public health worth £800m by 2020/21), while pay plummets and the workforce is struggling to retain highly skilled practitioners that are vital to ensure that organisational memory, skills and competencies survive. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs described this workforce crisis as “one of the most significant barriers to recovery outcomes.”
New research which finds that the number of people suffering from alcohol addiction has increased over 600,000 while the numbers receiving treatment in 2016/17 was the lowest level since 2008/09.
- 97 local authorities are planning on cutting treatment services for drug misuse in adults, whilst 87 local authorities are set to cut adult treatment services for alcohol misuse.
- 80 councils have budgeted to cut specialist drug and alcohol misuse services for children and young people totalling over £7million.
We should be concerned that this attack on the sector ultimately means a continued funding reduction and will result in the destruction of a once pioneering drug treatment system that has brought huge improvement to the lives of people with drug and alcohol problems.
If resources are spread too thinly, the effectiveness of drug treatment will suffer, which could lead to increased levels of blood-borne viruses, drug-related deaths and drug-driven crime in communities.
The reality of Tory led austerity can no longer be absorbed by well meaning providers and we are seeing the cutting of treatment services for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
The below points demonstrate a need for reinvestment and development of the sector;
- We are seeing the highest levels of drug related deaths since records began – in 2017 this numbered 3,756 deaths.
- Recovery rates are dropping for opiate users. In 2011/12 treatment completion was 8.59%; in the year ending November 2017, the recovery rate was 6.7% (NDTMS data). This is despite a narrative in procurement exercises that service redesign has resulted in improved outcomes for service users.
- The CQC’s recent review of non NHS residential in-patient detox facilities was shocking: 63% of services assessed as not meeting the regulation on ‘safe care and treatment’ (CQC).
- Drug use most prevalent in 16-25s (using a wider range of drugs than the over 25s/more poly use) yet disinvestment has been felt greatest in young peoples services.